Harald I of Norway

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Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair (Old Norse: Haraldr hárfagri, Norwegian: Harald Hårfagre), (c. 850 – c. 933) was the first king (872–930) of Norway.



Little is known of the historical Harald. The only contemporary sources mentioning him are the two skaldic poems Haraldskvæði and Glymdrápa, by Þorbjörn Hornklofi. The first poem describes life at Harald's court, mentions that he took a Danish wife, and that he won a victory at Hafrsfjord. The second relates a series of battles Harald won. He is not mentioned in any contemporary foreign sources. His life was described in several of the Kings' sagas, but the first of these were not written until the end of the 12th century, over 250 years after his death. Their accounts of Harald and his life differ on several points, and much of the content is clearly mythological. He is credited with having unified Norway into one kingdom. Modern historians assume that his rule was limited to the coastal areas of southern Norway.[who?][citation needed]

The saga descriptions

The sagas tell us that Harald succeeded, on the death of his father Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson, to the sovereignty of several small, and somewhat scattered kingdoms in Vestfold, which had come into his father's hands through conquest and inheritance. His protector-regent was his mother's brother Guthorm.

The unification of Norway is, according to a tale, somewhat of a love story. The tale begins with a marriage proposal that resulted in rejection and scorn from Gyda, the daughter of Eirik, king of Hordaland. She said she refused to marry Harald "before he was king over all of Norway". Harald was therefore induced to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and that ten years later, he was justified in trimming it; whereupon he exchanged the epithet "Shockhead" or "Tanglehair" for the one by which he is usually known. Most scholars today regard this story as a literary tale inspired by the Romance stories that were popular at the courts by the time Heimskringla was written.[who?][citation needed]

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